Michaela angela Davis
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Michaela angela Davis

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
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Music

The best kept secret in music

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Michaela Angela Davis might not be exactly who you think she is. Born in Germany and raised in Washington D.C, this army brat has worn many hats (and shoes for that matter, and we mean this literally because we have seen her collection.) As we sat down in her beautiful Brooklyn loft, it felt more like a meeting between friends. Having the pleasure of getting to know this dynamic woman who says, “a woman can be fly no matter what her age”, is something everyone should take the time to do and remember, what you see is not always what you get.

Clutch: How did you get your name?
Michaela Angela Davis : My mom was in Italy when she was pregnant with me and she was in the Sistine chapel staring at the ceiling. She had already had two girls and a boy and was so convinced I would be her second boy, so she planned to name him Michael Angelo, but when I was born she gave me the female version of it “Michaela Angela”.

Clutch: Do people compare you to, or think you’re named for Black Panther/activist Angela Davis?
Michaela Angela Davis : Yes! And the good thing about that is, it would make me slightly younger because Angela Davis wasn’t anyone to be named after until the 70's…and I was already born. Also now, my look and her look, you know, she has an Afro, I have one, so people do link us together. A little secret, when I was working at Essence and people wouldn’t call me back, I would sorta mumble my first name like “could you tell them (she quietly says Michaela) ANGELA DAVIS called?” So I pimped it a little bit! When I finally met her, it was a moment, it was really a moment.

Clutch: How was it growing up in DC?
Michaela Angela Davis : I was raised with artistic and intellectual privilege and I was encouraged to be free, there were a lot of books, music and art in my house, I wasn’t raised financially rich but that sort of came later, I ended up living in a beautiful house in DC with grass all the way around it in a beautiful black community. But I didn’t start like that, I started with my crib in the same room as my three sisters and brothers and their bunk beds. So sometimes there’s an assumption that I didn’t work or that my parents didn’t work for what we had. I do consider myself privileged, because I had access and was encouraged to be who I was going to be.

Clutch: What college did you attend?
Michaela Angela Davis : NYU. I studied acting and went mostly to their acting conservatory, so I didn’t really have a university-type life.

Clutch: If people were talking about you behind your back, what would you love for them to be saying?
Michaela Angela Davis : Well, first of all, my mother said to me once “what people say about you behind your back is none of your business” so I lived by that. I haven’t really gotten that much negative press; I haven’t done that much stuff. When I read the blogs where people were talking about me after some of the commentary I did, there was this idea, and this is where racism comes in, that somehow being light-skinned makes me not black, and I just wish that whole light-skinned privilege thing could be done away with. I was never that “Halle Berry” beautiful anyway, I was extremely light with really blonde hair, I looked weird!

Clutch: So you feel that there are still issues with colorism?
Michaela Angela Davis : There’s no privilege to me to walk into a room full of sisters and I automatically get set apart. There’s no privilege in knowing that a man is checking you just because your light-skinned, I’ve had that experience before and it’s wack. Anything that tears us apart as sisters, there’s no privilege in, we have equal pain, it’s just different and has been processed and presented to us in different ways.

Clutch: You may not remember this, but a few months ago I approached you in Harlem in creepy-stalker-mode at the Schomburg and told you that I had admired you and had been admiring you since you were at Essence. Please tell me that this happens to you all the time so I can feel better about myself!
Michaela Angela Davis : Yes! Oh my gosh, I just got teary eyed, I do remember! Here’s the thing, it does happen often, and never…ever…ever do I take it for granted. When I was at Vanity Fair and did things like Full Frontal Fashion, nobody really said anything except some of the young black girls who were really into fashion. The love that I get is so extraordinary and so important, it’s like every time I get it it’s like a direct gift from God, there are times when I’m tired, when I’m tired of being broke, at this point in my career and with my resume, the fact that I’m not ballin’ or chillin’ in the Hamptons (laughs) there are times when I question myself and say “why am I doing this?” I don’t take it for granted, because 50% of the time when someone says that to me, I’m questioning myself and what I’m doing at the moment. Thank you again.

Clutch: Have you ever watched a show that you were a commentator on and thought, “Why did I say that? Or what - Clutch Magazine


I remember being mad about "Mad At Miles," Pearl Cleage's brave and brilliant account of Miles Davis's brutalities towards women. I wish it was simple, that I was simply mad at Miles for whooping Cicely Tyson's behind, our Cicely our queen, no, I was mad at the conflict and the confusion it caused me. You see, I had to contend with "Kind of Blue" and "Sketches of Spain." Miles made music of the Gods, not to mention he was the hippest, sharpest-dressed, defiant, hypnotically striking, dangerously sexy man to ever put his mouth to metal. Miles was a giant, a Black man's hero, a genius and a monster.

Now, I am mad again. Mad at Chris Brown. Chris Brown, the bright smiling young Black boy who, when he danced, you dare not turn away. Happy Chris, who shined through all the sludge of thug glamour. Chris has that star thing and a sick work ethic. Chris Brown, heir apparent to Michael Jackson, who couldn't perform at his memorial because the swollen, black and blue face of Rihanna was still too bloody fresh in our minds. Our new pop prince beat down the princess and all the king's horses and all the king's men didn't come to put anything back together again.

Again, there is the conflict, no easy condemnation. Chris Brown is a broken Black boy. A boy who watched his mama get beat, a brilliant boy catapulted on stage. A boy whose got numerous adults on his payroll, who could decide to spend 5K a day on a stylist but not $250 per hour for therapist? So many people are satisfied with his public apologies, especially young girls (many thought Rihanna must have done something to deserve it--sigh). Chris says he's taking anger management courses. Does Chris need to manage his anger or does he need to heal from it? Chris needs intense professional help, he needs healthy accountable adults that are committed to his well-being and not his balance sheet. Rihanna deserves so much healing too and our young girls deserve a prince to sing to. So, I guess that's why Chris is charting and garnering magazine covers so swiftly after his fall (and would his rise be so swift if Rihanna was say, Taylor Swift?). Truth be told the "I Can Transform Ya" video is fire and his latest single "Crawl" is pretty much pop-perfection. Chris Brown is this generation's great entertainer and he beats up women.

And then there is R. Kelly. He also makes me mad. I remember when the brilliance of R.Kelly hit me, cause I didn't get it at first (too distracted by the visuals I guess). But I started listening to his music, his hooks, R.Kelly can sure write some songs. He spans all genres and generations, "Step in the Name of Love" gets even your cranky old auntie sliding at the family cookout and "I Believe I Can Fly" is a pre-schooler's anthem, not to mention the countless hits he gave to the hip-hop generation. His repertoire is ridiculous and his crimes towards women, reprehensible. R.Kelly's transgressions suggest that not only does he prey on young girls, but he enjoys humiliating them. Seems like all those folks buying tickets to his concerts are satisfied with the acquittal and have long forgotten the disgusting and degrading images of that girl being urinated on, or maybe it's just not that cut and dry. R. Kelly is truly gifted and he is a pedophile.

All of this is maddening because it brings up more questions and paradoxes than resolutions and concrete positions. I turned to Facebook to get a quick consensus and while some very clear opinions where expressed, many questions were posed. Do celebrities live in an alternate universe that makes them immune to justice? Does creative genius forgive all sins? Should someone's art be judged separately from their character? Is society too tolerant of abuse against women and children? What about a second chance? Should celebrities that abuse women be financially rewarded? Is it only conscious over 25 years old who are outraged? Does our tolerance reflect our values? Have we been historically, thoroughly taught that the lives of Black girls and women are not worthy of protection, that sexual abuse and violence should be expected and absorbed into our collective DNA, that we are built to take it?

So what's a couple punches between a dope beat?

"If we rejected art based on the artists' imperfections, transgressions and sins there would be a great many artists whose work we would not enjoy" was the comment of one of my wiser friends Florence Tate. "James Brown was a woman beater, we're still enjoying his music right?" another commented. True that. But isn't also true that we have to evolve? Isn't it true we have to challenge and dismantle, not just forgive, our sins? Isn't it true we must have the community self-esteem to ask the hard questions? Like asides from Kevin Powell and Byron Hurt, where are the healthy Black men, especially the celebrities, who are outraged at these abuses? Why don't they encourage their brothers to get some real help, step of the stage for a time to heal and refl - Essence.com


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Michaela angela Davis has been exploring the power and beauty of urban style, women’s politics and hip-hop culture for over 15 years. Her journey began in 1991 at ESSENCE magazine, the legendary and largest magazine for African-American women, serving as assistant fashion editor. Her first assignment was styling Anita Hill, and the rest is, well, herstory. Next stop, the launch of Vibe, the premiere mainstream urban culture magazine, where she was the fashion director; after which, Davis’ styling career took off with speed and specialty. Davis lent her unique taste and image-making prowess to a host of artists and cultural icons, such as Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Prince, Diana Ross, Donald Trump, Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, and Pink to name a few. She’s added “color” and her particular fashion flavor to numerous magazines like EW and Vanity Fair. Michaela was brought on as the expert style advisor to the urban cult classic film “Paid in Full”, regarded as this generations “Scarface”. Her writing and opinions seasoned as she penned fashion and culture commentary for international publications and books like Everything But The Burden: what white people are taking from black culture, (Broadway Books) edited by Greg Tate. She authored Beloved Baby (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster), a scrapbook and journal for alternative families. That was the 90’s.

At the dawn of the new millennium Michaela returned to her first love-magazines-as fashion director and editor-in-chief of Honey, the first book for the globally trendsetting demographic, the 18-34 stylish Urban-American woman, aka the “Urbanista”. In 2004, Davis went back to basics to work under her mentor Susan L. Taylor at ESSENCE, as executive fashion and beauty editor, while directing the magazine’s CULTURE section. While at ESSENCE she was the spokeswoman for the groundbreaking initiative “TAKE BACK THE MUSIC” a multi-media campaign to bring awareness to the hyper-sexualized representation and lyrical disrespect of young women of color in mainstream media. She became a leader on the subject, speaking at prestigious campuses like Yale and Spellman, in addition to community institutions. Davis hosted a session at the 2005 Congressional Black Caucus and spoke at the first Young Feminist Summit as part of N.O.W.’s 50th anniversary. Michaela has gracefully and skillfully taken on both Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and has appeared several times on CNN. She’s a reoccurring critic on pop-culture TV specials on BBC, MTV, VH1 and BET. In 2006 and 2007, Davis co-produced the Essence Music Festival’s Empowerment Seminar Series (the largest African-American music festival). She also served as a speaker and/or moderator on the panels “Who You Calling a Ho? (2006) and “Sisters Take Issue with Our Images” (2007) to record audiences.

Michaela has been a frequent commentator and style expert on Metro TV and Women’s Entertainment Television’s Full Frontal Fashion and E! She hosted and co-produced a progressive internet-broadcast fashion news show The Rogue Fashion Report. She was commissioned as an expert advisor on Black Style Now! an exhibit and program at CMNY. Michaela co-produced and was wardrobe designer for a recent on-air style promo for VH1. In addition to frequent television appearances, (most recently Inaugural coverage for both TVOne and CNN/DL Hughley), she currently producing a documentary film and developing an “Urbanista” television show.

Michaela serves on the board of Black Girls Rock!, ImageNation and The Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School. Born in Germany and raised in Washington, D.C., an artist at heart, Michaela studied acting at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as a National Arts Scholar, NYU, Stella Adler Acting Conservatory, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Michaela currently and proudly resides in Brooklyn with her teenage “Urbanista” daughter Elenni.